Boston Red Sox

Wakefield, Aceves invaluable to Sox success

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Wakefield, Aceves invaluable to Sox success

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK -- A few short months ago, the Red Sox' starting pitching depth appeared to be a real weakness.

Sure, the Sox had a talented rotation, led by Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, but what if something happened to the five starters?

Almost 60 games into the season, predictably, something has happened. John Lackey missed almost a month with elbow inflammation and the team not only survived his absence, it actually thrived while he was on the DL.

Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka was discovered to have a torn elbow ligament and will undergo season-ending surgery Friday. That, too, hasn't slowed the Sox, who today sit atop the American League East with the best record in the league.

For that, the Red Sox have the duo of Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves to thank.

"Since (Wakefield) and Aceves have taken those starts,'' said Terry Francona, "we haven't really missed too much. They've done a great job.''

In games started by the two, the Red Sox are 5-4, which might not sound like much. But consider that the starts have essentially come in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, where even good teams can be vulnerable and factor in that the Sox have a winning record in those contests.

Heads above water, in other words.

And Wednesday night, with the Red Sox bashing the New York Yankees 11-6, they were a duo of sorts, tagteaming to help the Sox win the series.

Wakefield started in the withering heat, running empty at 91 pitches and 5 13 innings. With the bullpen short -- Daniel Bard unavailable and Bobby Jenks freshly placed on the DL -- the Sox didn't want to run through two or three arms to finish out the game.

So, Aceves chipped in with 3 23 innings, piggybacking on Wakefield's start.

After going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts -- he should have won another, but Matt Albers memorably melted down against the Cubs on May 17 and robbed Aceves of a victory -- Aceves has twice given the Red Sox length out of the bullpen.

Saturday, he contributed four innings of one-one relief after the Sox coughed up a four-run lead and had to take 14 innings to beat the Oakland A's. Twice, then, in the last five days, Aceves has pitched seven innings out of the bullpen, finishing both games and allowing just two runs.

"He comes in and finishes a game,'' said Francona in admiration. "That's not an easy thing to do. But he's stretched out and he's good enough. He's so valuable. He can start if we need him to. This about (two) outings in a row now where he's helped the bullpen.''

Using only one reliever -- and staying away from late-inning bullpen mainstays -- is a gift for a manager, one that keeps paying dividends.

If Francona has to use Bard and Papelbon Thursday night in the final game in New York, he can do so without worrying about overuse.

Wakefield's value this year should not be overstated.

In the Red Sox' system, only Felix Doubront stands as a ready-for-prime-starter and he was unavailable -- both at the start of the season because of spring elbow inflammation, and then again later, due to a groin strain.

Doubront's absence could have crippled the team early when Lackey and Matsuzka went down and the team was still reeling to recover from its dismal start.

Instead, Wakefield stepped in and the team has won four of the six games he's started.

"What can you say about Wake?'' marveled Jason Varitek, who caught the knuckleballer in a start for the first time in six seasons Wednesday.

More to the point, where would the Red Sox be without him, and, on Wednesday night, his tag-team partner, too?

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Drellich: In-season trades are winning moves for Sox

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Drellich: In-season trades are winning moves for Sox

CLEVELAND — There was Drew Pomeranz a year ago and Eduardo Nunez in July. Now, there’s Rajai Davis.

The Red Sox have continually pushed forward with in-season trades, and the timing is hard to ignore. As the Sox have soared in August — they’re 16-4 since the non-waiver trade deadline, and nipping at the idle Houston Astros’ heels for best record in the American League — the value of new blood in a clubhouse and a lineup are shining through.

Not every deal is of great impact. See Fernando Abad, who’s essentially MIA. Not every deal of great impact right away, either. See Year 2 Pomeranz, who went toe to toe with Corey Kluber in Wednesday night’s 6-1 Sox win over the Indians. Somehow, that wasn’t surprising in Pomeranz’s best year yet.

But either way, Dave Dombrowski is not one to remain idle at the trade deadline, a stark contrast to the Astros — the team the Sox now could dethrone for home-field advantage in the A.L. playoffs. Houston’s decision not to make any notable upgrades this year brought outspoken disappointment from both the ace of the staff, Dallas Keuchel, and Josh Reddick, the former Sox outfielder.

“You’re aware that if you make a move that’s viewed positively, that it can have a great influence mentally on your team,” Dombrowski said earlier this month on the Baseball Show podcast of the impact of trades. “However, you would not make a move strictly for that purpose. … It really comes down to how your team performs once the players arrive.” 

They’re performing alright.

The Sox’ home runs have spiked this month. One internal theory is that the new, lengthened look to the lineup has contributed significantly, as opposed to things simply evening out after power was scarce most of the year.

It’s a viable contributing factor. Nunez and Rafael Devers show up, and pitchers can’t pitch around the other names as they did previously. There are more threats and more opportunities for mistakes to be capitalized on. 

Nunez ripped his sixth home run since joining the Red Sox on Wednesday night, giving him two more long balls in 22 games with the Red Sox than he had in 76 games with the Giants this season.

Power is something Nunez really showed for the first time in his career last year, with 16 in all. 

“For the last two years I've learned more 'top' than before,” Nunez said, referring to lifting the ball more. “Before I was more [swinging] down, line-drive hitting, ground ball to the opposite field. So I changed my approach.

“We have a little camp in the Dominican with [Robinson] Cano, [Edwin] Encarnacion, [Jean] Segura, all those guys. And we have a hitting coach, that's Luis Merced over there, we figured out that on an inside pitch, I tried to hit the ball to the right field, we decided to pull the ball. We decided it's better to pull the ball.”

Still, the Sox didn’t expect this kind of power. They expected just a lift.

“I don’t know that we were thinking home run,” manager John Farrell said. “He was swinging the bat well. We needed to add to our offense, which, let’s face it, month of July we were stagnant. He’s done that, and the power certainly has been there. He’s such a good high-ball hitter, and that’s where a lot of those home runs have come from, pitches up.”

Now, Davis is here. He’ll play center field, Farrell said after Wednesday night’s game, presumably in an everyday capacity, although that’s to be seen. 

(Deven Marrero was sent back to the minors to make room for Davis, who is to be around Thursday. Blaine Boyer also returned to the roster from the disabled list, with Hector Velazquez sent down.)

Jackie Bradley Jr. may not be down too long with a thumb sprain, but if you’re in the Red Sox clubhouse, it has to sit well with you knowing that even as September creeps up, more help has arrived. Rather instantaneously, too. Bradley gets an MRI in the morning, a trade is made in the afternoon.

“When we found out this morning, picked up the phone and called Billy Beane back today and moved it along at a quicker pace, because we had room on the roster for him,” Dombrowski said.

There’s power in trades, including power that’s unexpected.

Pomeranz shines again as Red Sox beat Indians, 6-1

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Pomeranz shines again as Red Sox beat Indians, 6-1

CLEVELAND -- The Boston Red Sox found a way to get the best of Corey Kluber.

Mitch Moreland hit a fifth-inning home run, Drew Pomeranz and three relievers outdueled Cleveland's ace, and the Red Sox defeated the Indians 6-1 on Wednesday night.

Boston manager John Farrell admitted his team had little margin for error.

"One run against Kluber felt like an accomplishment," he said. "We had good at-bats all night long against one of the best pitchers in baseball. Thankfully, we created some separation later in the game."

Moreland homered to right on a 1-0 pitch from Kluber (12-4), who allowed two runs over 7 2/3 innings.

Mookie Betts' RBI single with two outs in the eighth ended the night for Cleveland's ace, who allowed four hits and struck out 12 - the 13th time this season he's reached double figures in strikeouts.

Four pitchers held Cleveland's injury-depleted lineup to three hits, a night after Doug Fister pitched a one-hitter.

Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-out homer in the eighth off Addison Reed.

Pomeranz (13-4) gave up two hits and struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings in winning his seventh straight decision.

"Most of these games here have felt like the playoffs with the intensity," he said. "I was throwing it where I wanted to, and they were having a hard time hitting it."

Eduardo Nunez hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Bryan Shaw when Boston scored four times.

Jay Bruce beat out an infield hit in the second and Brandon Guyer singled in the fourth for Cleveland's other hits.

Kluber and Pomeranz both left their starts on Friday with injuries, but completed bullpen sessions earlier in the week. Kluber was removed in the sixth inning against Kansas City because of a sprained right ankle. Pomeranz left against the New York Yankees in the fourth because of back spasms.

Neither pitcher thought the injuries were a factor.

"I wasn't even thinking about it at all," Kluber said. "I was able to throw my side normally and be able to pitch today."

"No back issues at all," Pomeranz said. "I felt fine."

Kluber didn't allow a baserunner until Nunez's infield hit to lead off the fourth. The right-hander struck out the next three hitters and got the first two outs in the fifth before Moreland hit his 15th home run.

Kluber struck out the first two hitters in the eighth and has 208 this season, the fourth straight year he's reached the 200 mark.

Brock Holt drew a two-out walk in the eighth and Nunez was hit by a pitch. Betts singled past third baseman Giovanny Urshela for a 2-0 lead.

"To get two quick outs and then walk a guy, hit a guy and give up a hit, it's not ideal," Kluber said.

The Indians placed second baseman Jason Kipnis on the 10-day disabled list for the second time since early July while first baseman Carlos Santana missed his second straight game with back tightness.

Outfielders Michael Brantley (sprained right ankle) and Lonnie Chisenhall (strained right calf) are also out.

"Sometimes you don't have everybody," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That doesn't mean you can't win. It can be little more challenging. Rather than back down, just keep fighting."

ROSTER NEWS

Boston acquired OF Rajai Davis from Oakland during the game. Davis and RHP Blaine Boyer, who has been on the DL with a stiff neck, were added to the roster. INF Deven Marrero and RHP Hector Velazquez were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

SLUMPING

Jose Ramirez, one of Cleveland's most consistent hitters, is in an 0-for-17 slump after going hitless in three at-bats and drawing a walk in the first. His average has dropped to .298.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: OF Jackie Bradley Jr. was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb.

Indians: Santana might return to the lineup Thursday. He was removed in the eighth inning Monday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox LHP Chris Sale allowed seven runs over five innings in an Aug. 1 no-decision against Cleveland. Indians RHP Trevor Bauer is 1-2 with an 8.79 ERA in five career outings against Boston.